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Accessible Schools

Do I need a School Access Audit?

Schools must have a written accessibility plan. This is a statutory requirement from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which remains in force in Northern Ireland. In England, Scotland, and Wales the Equality Act 2010 retains the requirement. The Department of Education in page 29 of Equality Act 2010: Information for Schools states:

4.29 Schools must implement accessibility plans which are aimed at:

· increasing the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the curriculum;

· improving the physical environment of schools to enable disabled pupils to take better advantage of education, benefits, facilities, and services provided; and

· improving the availability of accessible information to disabled pupils.

First stage

The first stage of any accessibility plan is to undertake an accessibility audit. Audits are designed to benchmark your school with relevant standards and codes including British Standards BS 8300, Part M of Building Regulations for Access to Buildings, and Part B Fire Safety. (In Wales, Part M as approved by the Welsh Government applies. In Scotland, it is Section 4.2 of the Technical Handbook and in Northern Ireland Technical Document R).

Second stage

Write your accessibility plan based on the Access Audit. There is no set format that needs to be followed. However, it should address issues identified in the Access Audit and focus on key access principles. It must be clear how information is communicated to all stakeholders including disabled students and their parents.

Third stage

The Governors will need to approve the accessibility plan. This may be delegated to a sub-committee, an individual Governor, or the Headteacher.

Fourth stage

Publish the accessibility plan. There is no specific guidance on where it should be made available. Your website is probably the most accessible place therefore it would make sense to include website publication. Your school’s SEN information must mention the accessibility plan and that it covers the three bullet points listed above.

If you are an Academy, it is advisable to check your funding agreement to see what the publishing requirements are for your school.

Fifth stage

Review your accessibility plan every three years. It must be reviewed and approved in the same way as the third stage. It is advisable to also renew your Access Audit, especially where significant changes have taken place. These could be new buildings, changes in layout, major changes in pupil numbers either increasing or decreasing.

The format of the accessibility plan is your choice.

Direct Access provides a free school audit checklist that covers some of the key areas – please contact us for a copy.

It is not a substitute for a full audit undertaken by a National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) accredited Access Consultant. The NRAC is a government-backed register of independent Consultants that have been through a rigorous application programme.

Direct Access provides a range of services to support schools from Access Audits produced by NRAC Consultants to developing accessibility plans. We also provide hearing induction loops and evacuation chair equipment for schools.

We work across the entire spectrum of schools from community or local-authority-maintained schools, foundation schools, voluntary schools, Academies, and free schools run by not-for-profit Academy Trusts and grammar schools. We work with special schools and SEN units. Our diverse range of faith school and Academy clients include Catholic, Church of England, Jewish, and Muslim schools. We work with pupil referral units and Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) providers, University technical colleges and city technical colleges, and private schools both day and boarding. It is not just schools that engage Direct Access – our education clients include Universities, Colleges, UCAS, examination boards, and academic publishing firms.

Are you looking to make your site accessible to thousands of disabled people? Feel free to contact us and lay out your specific needs so that we can find improvements to suit your needs or budget. Or alternatively, have a look at our Access Consultancy options. We are here to help because for us, access is personal.

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